Is the N-Gage Doomed?

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Nokia took the wraps off its forthcoming combination portable game player and mobile phone last week. The N-Gage will also include the ability to handle email. However, just days after it’s announcement, industry response towards the device has been lackluster at best.

Nokia N-Gage The N-Gage sounds impressive, at least on paper. It allows online, mobile, multiplayer game play and Nokia has signed up several big-name companies to produce games, like Gameloft Activision, and Eidos. In addition to gaming, is also offers a digital music player (MP3/AAC), stereo FM radio, as well as a tri-band GSM 900/1800/1900 mobile phone. It does not offer Web access.

The device will be 5.25 by 2.75 by .8 inches and weigh 4.8 ounces. It will run the Symbian OS and cost $300 when it is available October 7.

According to gamesindustry.biz, “Reaction to the company’s announcements from those present at the [E3] conference was overwhelmingly negative, with most of those we spoke to drawing attention not only to the price – which is completely out of the league of normal game console pricing, regardless of what other functions the device performs – but also to the dubious quality of the software on show, with the gameplay footage of the titles showing serious issues with frame rates and graphical quality.

This doesn’t bode well for the Tapwave Helix, a Palm OS-based gaming handheld that first came to light earlier this month. This is expected to cost between $200 and $300 when it is available later this year. Details on the Helix are still sketch as the company hasn’t formally announced it yet, just showed it off to a few industry insiders. However, it does offer a screen significantly better than the one on the N-Gage and no one who has seen the device so far has complained about its game playing capabilities.

The market for portable gaming devices has suddenly become crowded. In addition to the Nintendo GameBoy and new GameBoy Advance, the market will soon include the N-Gage, the Helix, and Sony said recently it will release a portable version of the PlayStation by the end of 2004.

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